Trend assessment share button


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This paper discusses the emergence, prevalence, and relevance of the Share Widget.

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Trend assessment share button

  1. 1. Trend Assessment: Emergence, Prevalence andRelevance of Share Buttons on Social Media By: David Stein MKTG 7546 – Professor Brey 0
  2. 2. The Share Widget – What, Why and How. The ―Share Widget‖, or share button(s) as they are often referred to, is a set of ―buttons‖or clickable icons that automatically share whatever the user is reading or viewing with aparticular social network of their choosing. See Exhibit A in the appendix for an example of a―share widget‖. There are numerous social media platforms that allow this type of sharing, but the mainones include: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Stumbleupon. Further, according to SEO (searchengine optimization) platform BrightEdge Technologies, 53.6% of the top 10,000 websitesinclude at least one social link, a percentage that continues to rise.1 The effectiveness of the share widget is a direct result of its ease of use. As mentionedearlier, when an individual enjoys an article or a blog posting they’ve read on a website theysimply click an icon and instantaneously post the article to their Facebook friends, Twitterfollowers, or LinkedIn network. In the past, perhaps as many as 18 months ago, if users wanted to share their finds theyhad to go to the trouble of copying the link and then manually pasting it into their social mediasite. Share buttons have made it simpler, easier, and lightening fast to share people’s preferenceswith their friends, family, and colleagues. Users do need to sign into their social media site inorder to display the post/tweet, but even this can be done right through the share widget software.As Michael Stelzner of the Social Media Examiner notes, ―social media share buttons are a greatway to get your readers to share your content on their own social media profiles without leavingyour website.2‖ The share widget appears to be an extension, or the latest evolution of, socialbookmarking. Social bookmarking can be defined as ―the practice of saving bookmarks to apublic Web site and ―tagging‖ them with keywords‖.3 Though initially these public websites(including familiar ones such as;, Reddit, and Stumbleupon) seemed less mainstream,other, larger and more popular, social media have become spaces for social bookmarking.According to Facebook statistics and an infographic from SocialHype, over 1 million links wereuploaded to Facebook every 20 minutes in 20114. This, as one can imagine, is due in part to theadvent of the share widget (the article which provided this statistic, for example, was shared toFacebook nearly 15,000 times using the widget alone). According to Facebook’s days-old IPO,users generate an average of 2.7 billion ―likes‖ and ―comments‖ per day5. These of course arejust two of the buttons that a share widget can include. With Facebook’s tracking informationand data mining capabilities this information can be utilized in the creation of incredibly targetedmarketing campaigns and related sales pitches. One of the most recent developments stemming from the share button is in terms of howit’s being used by companies as well as individuals. For the individual, being able to tap intoones network for recommendations has become incredibly compelling. The ―Likes‖ Appcreated by Willow Tree Apps is an example of this phenomenon. This free phone application –currently available on the iPhone and Android scans one’s Facebook friends’ ―likes‖ of1 Emarketer2 Social Media Examiner3 Educause Learning Initiative4 Mashable5 NY Daily News 1
  3. 3. restaurants and bars as well as movies, TV shows and other things that people spend time andmoney on. Further, if the user searches for an establishment, it lists the ones nearest first, makingit an excellent way to find a nearby eatery or drinking spot.6 Another very interesting development of the ―like‖ button and, by association, the sharewidget comes from the company/marketing standpoint and in particular, from behind the sceneusage by third parties. This anecdote from The New York Times is quite illuminating and alsofairly terrifying. ―Stereotyping is alive and well in data aggregation. Your application for creditcould be declined not on the basis of your own finances or credit history, but on the basis ofaggregate data — what other people whose likes and dislikes are similar to yours have done. Ifguitar players or divorcing couples are more likely to renege on their credit-card bills, then thefact that you’ve looked at guitar ads or sent an e-mail to a divorce lawyer might cause a dataaggregator to classify you as less credit-worthy. When an Atlanta man returned from hishoneymoon, he found that his credit limit had been lowered to $3,800 from $10,800. The switchwas not based on anything he had done but on aggregate data. A letter from the company toldhim, ―Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shoppedhave a poor repayment history with American Express.‖7 The share widget could be the ―next great thing‖ to happen to social media optimization.It allows websites to focus on content and let virtual word of mouth (social bookmarking) do the―heavy lifting‖. The implications for this technology are being felt throughout the web touchingnearly every aspect – from the pontification of the social websites themselves through thenetwork effect and new venues (i.e. interlinking between social websites), to news sources,blogs, and of course e-commerce.Success Stories An intuitive understanding of the value of the share widget is important, but of course thetask for marketing people is the quantitative analysis of its value. LinkedIn and Stumbleuponprovide excellent case studies towards this end on the share button side, and Giantnerd does thesame from the company standpoint.LinkedIn According to Greg Cypes, director of product at Clearspring [the maker of AddThis – oneof the premier share widgets], for every article a user "shares" with his or her network, LinkedIndrives an average of 1.5 clicks back to the publisher. "That is better than the average across all ofour networks, of about 1.1 clicks, and is about as effective as Twitter." Facebook ―shares‖, forreference, drive around 1.7 clicks.8 Still, LinkedIn is small fish in the social networking game. As of March, 2011, LinkedInreached the 100 million mark for registered users.9 In comparison, at around the same time,Twitter had around 175 million registered users10, and Facebook had over 620 million users11.6 Larry’s World7 The New York Times8 Business Insider9 LinkedIn Blog10 Technolog.MSNBC11 Facebook Statistics 2
  4. 4. We now have to ask ourselves two questions: Why then, does LinkedIn have such a greatclick-through rate on ―shares‖ and why is the share button so valuable to LinkedIn users? Theanswers are surprisingly simple. The click-through rate on LinkedIn ―shares‖ is so high because LinkedIn has aspecialized niche. Though it’s considered a ―social network‖ LinkedIn is not for socializing.Rather, it a ―professional‖ network for career purposes: building connections, job hunting,expanding expertise or learning about gathering related intelligence. As such, users of LinkedIntrust their network. Further, as Cypes adds, ―you can share all kinds of random nonsense onFacebook and Twitter -- and no one cares, or remembers. On Linkedin, however, your futurebosses and employees are watching. People think before they share.‖ The LinkedIn share buttons found on other websites are valuable to LinkedIn users forthe very same reason. These are busy professionals. While Facebook and Twitter users may be―playing around‖ on the Internet in their spare time and sharing YouTube videos and ESPNstories, LinkedIn users looking at particular business related content may be pressed for time.The ease of use of the ―share button‖ allows them to post relevant or interesting business relatedlinks to their LinkedIn network with little more than a simple click. There is really no effortinvolved. And this can be the difference between sharing an article or not.Giantnerd According to Social Media Examiner, in 2011, Giantnerd was named one of ―9companies doing social media right‖. Among the reasons cited for its success was one tellingstatistic, ―Since adding the Like button [one particular type of ―share button‖], their averageorder has increased by 50%!‖12 As CEO Randall Weidberg states ―I want, and our memberswant, recommendations from like-minded people and thats what the Like button gives them." Headded, "Most people have friends who have similar interests, so when they see that their friendlikes a particular product it has a real impact.‖13 Though the 50% growth and 30% jump in thosewho placed orders is certainly due, in part, to the addition of the Like button it would bemisleading to credit this increased order size solely to this addition.Potential Applications While the use of share buttons continues to become more prevalent, and its effectivenessseems intuitive, if not completely quantifiable, there are still potential applications that have notyet been realized. Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge states, "Fewer than half the largest sites on theWeb offer any kind of social link at all on their front page and these sites represent a massiveslice of Internet traffic on any given day. We would expect to see a land grab effort this year asplug-ins vie for placement on this very valuable Web real estate."14 Alexa (―The Web Information Company‖) lists Google as the number one site on the 15web. Still, there is no share button on the Google homepage or during searches. In many casesindividual searches are for social purposes (for example a search of Super Bowl statistics, orabout Jim Valvano during ESPN’s ―Jimmy V week‖), and it would be useful if a user couldshare their search and/or the results with their network. This could increase traffic to Google andtheir advertisers, potentially increasing revenue for each.12 Social Media Examiner13 InternetRetailer.com14 BrightEdge15 Alexa 3
  5. 5. Social shopping sites are also prime for share buttons. Ebay for example has a Facebook―Like‖ button as well as a few other social media share buttons (including Twitter), but they arenot prominently featured. In fact, until I began this project and looking for them specifically Ihad never noticed them. Making these buttons more prominent, or featuring them in more areasof the websites, and throughout the search and purchase process could have strong implicationsfor future users. For example, if I purchase tickets to a sporting event on Ebay and can easilyshare this with my social network, friends of mine may decide to get tickets of their own and joinme. Though does not sell sports tickets, the same feedback could apply to them.Wouldn’t it be valuable if I could share with my network that I just purchased the book ―Gameof Thrones‖? Perhaps my referential network of friends and family might want to purchase thesame book? Perhaps it would inspire the start of a book club? On the other hand, maybeAmazon fears that spreading this knowledge would actually cause an opposite effect? Perhapssomeone in my network who was going to buy the book may see that I have it and just ask toborrow it when I’m done? Another potential application is for travel websites., for example, is a travelaggregator. Though it allows me to sign into the website via my Facebook login, there doesn’tappear to be any share buttons. It would be effective if as a user I could share my potential flightoptions easily with my network and it would be free and effective marketing for Future of the Share Widget - Interview (with Colin McCloskey) To get another perspective on the ―share widget‖, its business applications and its future Ihave interviewed Social Media expert Colin McCloskey Principal and Founder of AwexomeLabs. (See Appendix B for a full biography and Appendix C for the full interview.) Mr. McCloskey wraps up his interview, ―It’s a win-win, with a few caveats‖, which turnsout to be a great way to start this section of my trend assessment. As noted throughout, sharing has become more prevalent among social media users, butalso amongst businesses looking to capitalize on this situation – and so far it appears to be apositive synergy. ―Theres an obvious incentive for a user to share content on Facebook, as theirfriends will then see what they find interesting. There is, too, an obvious incentive to a publisherto include the Like button throughout their site, as it provides friend-to-friend recommendationsand lots of interesting traffic, which leads to additional sales, advertising dollars, and more.‖ Further discussing this relationship and its impact Mr. McCloskey makes a few othernotable comments: ―Having your content, your brand, your product, and your everything sharedon the largest social networks is one of the most important ways to generate new traffic andadditional revenue.‖ ―While our everyday browsing has been impacted, our decision-making hasbeen subtly impacted, as well. Have you read an article online, recently? Nine times out of ten, itseems, our friends are recommending said article. While reading a hockey recap, seeing thatJohn Doe, Jane Doe, and 12 other friends recommend Bauer Skates might impact my nextpurchase. At present, this is most frequently used to motivate reading and content discovery, butit is only a matter of time before it becomes significantly weighted towards productrecommendations and advertising.‖ Mr. McCloskey further espouses, ―Proper implementationof share buttons is no longer a "nice to have" addition, but is now a pre-requisite for designingengaging online content, particularly any content with business objectives.‖ With the speed that the Internet moves and the technologies and innovation surroundingit, the share widget trend continues to develop as well – both in its uses and applications. ―A 4
  6. 6. share widgets end-user experience may not change drastically, but the usefulness of theinformation from a "like" or "share" will continue to increase. Innovation in this area will bedriven, in part, by the growing competition between the three major social networks: Facebook,Twitter, and Google+. It is likely that social bookmarking sites such as Stumbleupon, digg, will continue to exist, but will essentially be overmatched by the size of the largersocial networking sites.‖ When, thus, questioned about what it will take to stay ahead of thecompetition Mr. McCloskey notes the importance of maintaining the relationships betweencompanies and the social networks, and staying on top of the developing technologies and trends– such as purchasing directly through Facebook. Still, as ―great‖ as the share widget is, there are inevitable negatives. ―Sites that havepoor share strategies often present the user a barrage of share widgets on all sides of their contentand at every turn. I believe, in time, we will see users become exhausted by this form of sharingproliferation, which presents itself as mostly "out to get the like," as opposed to offering asharing feature beside compelling products and content.‖ Website cluttering can give users anegative online experience, but nothing about the Internet and social media sites, in particular,scares users more than the risk of giving up their privacy – though it should be noted that more-often-than-not users give up their privacy knowingly for several reasons. This however, is alsoone of the strengths of sharing for companies and the social media sites. As Mr. McCloskeystates, ―The most dangerous, but most business-compelling element of the share widgetproliferation lies in the data collected about users by social networks and their partner sites.‖ 5
  7. 7. Appendix A 6
  8. 8. Appendix BAbout Colin McCloskeyCOLIN McCLOSKEY is the Principal member at Awexome Labs, a consultancy specializing inthe design and development of social media engagement and marketing products on the web andinside the worlds largest social networks. He has managed and personally developed over 50successful social media applications and campaigns, targeting a customer reach of over 10Million.Prior to founding Awexome Labs, Colin was an early-stage employee at San Francisco startupsContext Optional and Involver. From 2008 to 2010, he worked with Fortune 500 businesses andlarge brands to develop social media campaigns, reaching over 8 Million fans and users. Notablecustomers included Microsoft, Electronic Arts, McDonald’s, DIRECTV, Facebook, NBCUniversal, and Safeway.Colin cut his teeth as a member of the CNET Networks Platform Infrastructure team,engineering tools used by engineers and producers throughout the company. Colin completed hisB.S. in Computer Science at the University of Delaware in 2005, and has one year of graduatestudy in the field of Educational Technology under his belt. 7
  9. 9. Appendix CTHE FUTURE OF THE SHARE WIDGETInterview with Colin McCloskey1) How has this trend impacted the business landscape?When Facebook introduced the Like button at their developers conference in April of 2010,there were a handful of somewhat-established social bookmarking sites, of which digg,, and Stumbleupon were the most prominent. Bookmarking sites hold a mere fractionof the visits large social networks garner, and Facebook is by far the largest of the socialnetworking sites out there.By introducing the Like button, which automatically shares a given link to ones friends on thesocial network, Facebook immediately offered publishers an opportunity to connect Facebooksincredibly recognizable brand to their visitors. The Like button made sharing content while youbrowse the Internet a near-effortless interaction for everyday users. Theres an obvious incentivefor a user to share content on Facebook, as their friends will then see what they find interesting.There is, too, an obvious incentive to a publisher to include the Like button throughout their site,as it provides friend-to-friend recommendations and lots of interesting traffic, which leads toadditional sales, advertising dollars, and more.With Facebooks Like button in the fray, competing social networks all followed suit, creatingtheir own buttons. You can now easily re-post or share content to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+,Yahoo!, and a host of other sites. This bevy of options allows a publisher to give their users thechoice of where theyd like to share their content. Publishers receive secondary,recommendation-based traffic from a variety of sites, and the sites in question are incrediblylarge social networks, as opposed to much smaller, niche bookmarking sites.For a site in the business of selling goods, publishing content, or engaging in other sales, theimplication is clear: a well-placed share button --be it Facebooks "Like," Googles "+1,"Twitters "Follow" or combination of options-- can drive up user engagement, word of mouthmarketing, and traffic. The natural connection, then, is that increased traffic can drive higheradvertising revenue and/or product sales.Proper implementation of share buttons is no longer a nice to have addition, but is now a pre-requisite for designing engaging online content, particularly any content with businessobjectives.2) What specific industries and consumer segments are impacted (the greatest)?Online share widgets have certainly changed the marketing methods that must be used in everyindustry that has or wishes to have an online presence. Having your content, your brand, yourproduct, and your everything shared on the largest social networks is one of the most importantways to generate new traffic and additional revenue. It has significantly changed the onlinepublishing industry. As a corollary of this change, each industry and market that wishes to 8
  10. 10. engage customers online must now consider their strategy when it comes to generating andmaking use of shared content.Customers have been impacted in a number of ways, but most obviously in what some arereferring to as an inundation of share options. Its quite common, now, to see half a dozen sharebuttons beside, atop, and below every article we read on a news website. Every piece of contentwe read online now seems to ask the question: will you share me? At some point, consumerexhaustion will take hold.While our everyday browsing has been impacted, our decision-making has been subtly impacted,as well. Have you read an article online, recently? Nine times out of ten, it seems, our friends arerecommending said article. While reading a hockey recap, seeing that John Doe, Jane Doe, and12 other friends recommend Bauer Skates might impact my next purchase. At present, this ismost frequently used to motivate reading and content discovery, but it is only a matter of timebefore it becomes significantly weighted towards product recommendations and advertising.3) How is the trend itself developing? Whats next? Will Google+ overtake Facebook orTwitter or Stumbleupon?Facebook maintains an incredible lead in terms of social network market share. So much so, thatthey now boast over 845M users which are active in any given month. As time moves on, manycompeting social networks, including Twitter and Google+, will be focused on growing theiruser bases in an effort to "be as important" as Facebook in the social networking realm.A share widgets end-user experience may not change drastically, but the usefulness of theinformation from a "like" or "share" will continue to increase. Innovation in this area will bedriven, in part, by the growing competition between the three major social networks: Facebook,Twitter, and Google+. It is likely that social bookmarking sites such as Stumbleupon, digg, will continue to exist, but will essentially be overmatched by the size of the largersocial networking sites.4) What will be needed to stay ahead of competitors?Facebook, will begin to focus specifically on raising the income it generates per user. At over845M active users, the company is reaching a saturation point. In order to continue to grow, theywill need to turn their attentions to offering more effective marketing and income opportunitiesto their current users. This will likely result in a proliferation of more sharing opportunities, butalso the debut of new and income-generating ways to use the preferences, likes,recommendations, and other information that has been collected from users since the launch oftheir share widget.By building new products in these areas, Facebook can maintain deep relationships withadvertisers and businesses that have a mutually beneficial relationship with the social network.Facebooks biggest advantage in this area is their incredibly large user base and their head start interms of advertising relationships, revenue, and tools. 9
  11. 11. On the company side, it will be important for companies to continue to make effective use of thelike and share buttons across the social networks. They will also need to use the collected datafor targeting and selling, and use the new sales avenues effectively. In the very near futurebuying products directly through Facebook will be viable and incredibly potent.5) Do you see negative aspects to the share widget? (ie. website cluttering, making thecontent of the site seem more focused on obtaining mass audience than being beinggenuine, etc.)Sites that have poor share strategies often present the user a barrage of share widgets on all sidesof their content and at every turn. I believe, in time, we will see users become exhausted by thisform of sharing proliferation, which presents itself as mostly "out to get the like," as opposed tooffering a sharing feature beside compelling products and content. However, we will see themajority of sharing implementations --particularly on business sites-- improve as a series of bestpractices emerges.The most dangerous, but most business-compelling element of the share widget proliferation liesin the data collected about users by social networks and their partner sites. For instance, it ispossible for a site like Facebook to theoretically track your Internet reading habits on sites thatoffer a Like button even without your having to interact with the share widget itself. This,coupled with scads of user preference information, will be fed into targeted advertising,recommendations, and more in the coming years.All in all, the share widget provides an attractive and effortless way for everyday users to sharetheir favorite products and content with their friends. The widgets also compellingly provide vastamounts of information and recommendation-based traffic for advertisers, publishers, and onlinebusinesses. Its win-win, with a few caveats. 10
  12. 12. Works CitedAndrews, L. (2012, February 4). Facebook Is Using You. Retrieved from The New York Times: (2011, July 8). BrightEdge Social Share Analysis of Top 10,000 Sites. Retrieved from BrightEdge:, K. (2011, March 7). Facebook Demographics Revisited – 2011 Statistics. Retrieved from Facebook:, M. H. (2012, February 3). Facebooks $5 billion IPO is banked on your private data -- and you get nothing.Retrieved from NY Daily News:, J. (2011, December 15). Linkedins Share Button: Heres The Secret Behind Its Disproportionate Power InSocial Media. Retrieved from Business Insider:, R. (2011, April 1). Just how many active Twitter users are there? Retrieved from Technolog on (2012, 2 1). Top 500 Websites. Retrieved from Alexa:, J. (2011, January 12). Are We Too Obsessed with Facebook (Infographic). Retrieved from Mashable SocialMedia:, A. (2011, April 12). 9 Companies Doing Social Media Right and Why. Retrieved from Social MediaExaminer:, Z. (2011, May 1). The New Mass Medium. Retrieved from Internet Retailer:, M. (2011, January 13). 8 Ways to Use Social Share Buttons on Your Blog. Retrieved from Social MediaExaminer: (2012, February 3). Likes App Tells You What Your Friends "Like". Retrieved from Larrys World: (2011, September 13). Sites See Results from Social Sharing Buttons. Retrieved from EMarketer DigitalIntelligence: (2005, May). The 7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking. Retrieved from EducauseLearning Initiative:, J. (2011, March 22). 100 Million Members and Counting. Retrieved from The LinkedIn Blog: 11